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Manchester has marked the 199
th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre with a “name reading” ceremony commemorating the fallen and an exclusive look at the artwork for a forthcoming film about the tragedy.

On August 16, 1819, an estimated 15 people were killed and 650 injured in an event later described as the British equivalent of the Tiananmen Square, unleashing a tidal wave of radical protest and activism that would lead to democracy as we know it.

To mark the anniversary, actor John Henshaw read the names of the dead in a ceremony in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, before supporters laid a wreath at the nearby memorial.

The crowd then walked to Windmill Street – believed to be the site of the massacre - where the publicity poster for the new Mike Leigh film, Peterloo, was unveiled by cast member Christine Bottomley for the first time.

The Peterloo Massacre was the result of a desperate attempt by the British establishment to dampen down demands for parliamentary representation of ordinary people.

As many as 60,000 people walked peacefully from towns and villages to gather in St Peter’s Fields, the centre of modern day Manchester.

The massacre was the result of an attempt by British forces to disperse the crowd and arrest the protest’s radical ringleader, Henry Hunt.

The name Peterloo was a grim nod towards the Battle of Waterloo which had taken place four years earlier and part of the Napoleonic Wars, which had led to extreme hardship among working people.

The meeting is believed to have centred on a land roughly situated between the rear of the Midland Hotel and the front of Manchester Central.

Plans to mark the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre on August 16, 2019, include:

Peterloo: the movie

Peterloo, a new film by Salford-born director Mike Leigh, which is due for cinematic release on November 2, 2018. Starring Maxine Peake, Peterloo will have its UK premiere at Home in Manchester on Wednesday, 17 October. It will be the first ever BFI British Film Festival premiere to be held outside London.

Manchester Histories festival 2019

In 2019, Manchester Histories will mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre with a programme of public events, learning and creative exploration in partnership with key cultural organisations, including the People’s History Museum and communities across Greater Manchester. Peterloo 2019 has been supported by a development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to whom a further submission was made in May 2018. In the meantime, Manchester Histories is working closely with HLF and its strategic partners to make ensure its delivery plans are ambitious, impactful and do justice to all who gathered in St Peter’s Field so many years ago.

Many of these cultural and community organisations will be programming events to mark the bicentenary as part of a festival of commemoration taking place from June to August 2019. This will creatively, immersively and accessibly invite audiences to explore the past, present and future impact of Peterloo.

There will also be a series of projects that, for example, look at protest music, give people a platform to have their say, open up film-making opportunities and explore the descendants of Peterloo.

A dedicated interactive website will place visitors in the setting of St Peter’s Field, where they’ll find out more about those people assembled from across Greater Manchester, those speaking on the hustings, the presence of the military and other key people in the story.

An extensive learning programme, which will take place in primary and high schools across Greater Manchester, includes interactive resources, tools and animations created by young people to inspire young people. This will launch from spring 2019.

Peterloo 2019 is led by Manchester Histories with partners who include People’s History Museum, Manchester City Council, Historic England, University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Supporting the delivery of the events programme and helping to bring to life the story telling will be a team of volunteers who will be engaged in projects across the city throughout 2019. More information at Manchester Histories. For further information visit:

Peterloo Memorial

Manchester City Council has agreed to support a permanent memorial to the Peterloo Massacre and has commissioned the artist Jeremy Deller to create it.

Peterloo Massacre Commemorative Rally & Picnic

The 2018 Peterloo Massacre Commemorative Rally & Picnic is this year organised and hosted by Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils (GMATUC) and will take place on Sunday 19 August 2pm-3pm - more information at

Red Saunders to commemorate bicentenary of Peterloo Massacre

Internationally renowned photographer Red Saunders has been commissioned to commemorate the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre through the format of “tableaux vivant”, or living picture.

It is part of his Hidden Project series of photography recreating “great moments in the long struggle of working people for democracy and social justice”. Previous examples can be seen on his website here.

Red is calling for volunteers to star in the latest of his epic photographic masterpieces.

Auditions will take place after the Commemorative Rally & Picnic on the forecourt of Manchester Central Convention Centre from 2pm on Sunday 19th August. Headshots will be taken before the final photoshoot in late-September 2018. For more information visit or email




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